If Weed Makes You Extremely Nauseated, You’re Not Alone
In the fall of 2016, I became an egg donor. Following my hormonal treatments and egg retrieval, I began to experience unusual bouts of nausea. I didn’t think much of it at first, assuming it was an interim experience attributed to the hormonal changes my body was undergoing. I also found that cannabis, which I’d typically used to treat insomnia, provided temporary relief from the sick feeling in my stomach.
But as time went on, the rounds of nausea became prolonged and more severe. The smell and sight of food repelled me. I couldn’t bring myself to eat, sometimes for days on end, and I started to lose a lot of weight. I scheduled an appointment with a gastroenterologist to see if we could figure out what was going on.
I had noticed that the more I used cannabis to treat my nausea, the more sick I felt during the hours I wasn’t smoking. It seemed counterintuitive that cannabis might be playing a role in my sickness since it’s often recommended to alleviate nausea, but I felt compelled to tell the doctor I’d been smoking on a regular basis.
To my surprise, he told me that U.S. states that had legalized the medical or recreational use of cannabis, leading to an increase in cannabis usage, had also seen a significant rise in a condition known as cannabinoid hyperemesis syndrome (CHS). I was consistently experiencing prolonged nausea throughout the day—a common symptom of CHS. Because I smoked cannabis on a regular basis, the doctor believed my condition was, in fact, linked to cannabis use. My various test results came back normal, indicating he was likely right.
CHS is a puzzling condition occurring in long-term cannabis users. Common symptoms include extreme nausea, intractable vomiting, and abdominal pain. Many patients report finding relief by taking hot showers. It’s an unusual illness given that medical cannabis is often used to treat the nausea of cancer patients, for example. But it turns out that while cannabis is frequently effective against nausea and vomiting, it can also trigger it.
The symptoms of CHS sometimes take years to surface. The first course of action for cannabis users suffering from severe nausea and/or uncontrollable vomiting should be to cease cannabis use and see if symptoms subside within 2-3 days. I was advised to do this, and within two days, I was completely back to normal.
The cause of CHS is unknown. Because cannabis has complex chemical properties, it makes it difficult to pinpoint what leads to this seemingly paradoxical syndrome. Some research is focused on the body’s receptors which are affected by cannabis use. Heavy, frequent use is thought to deregulate receptors, causing the symptoms of CHS. Cannabis use, however, has been common for centuries in countries like India, and symptoms of CHS have only begun to be reported in the last couple of decades. In addition, there are no reports of CHS by chronic users in some regions, such as South Asia, at least not to the extent we see in the United States. This has led some doctors to be skeptical of the idea that cannabis itself is the problem, theorizing that additives may be the issue instead. In the case of Asia, however, lack of reports may also be due to the fact that weed remains strictly illegal in many of its largest countries, even as it gains acceptance in the West.
In my case, my fertility specialist believed CHS was directly linked to changes in my receptors caused by the hormones I was taking. I was scheduled to undergo a second round of egg donation, and he thought it was possible my receptors would revert back to normal afterward. Sure enough, following the second procedure, I no longer experienced the symptoms of CHS when using cannabis.
Cannabis use is increasing across the country as states not only legalize its recreational use, but also as it becomes increasingly seen as an effective alternative treatment to many commonly used pharmaceuticals, including opioids. Regardless of its cause, doctors expect to see a rise in cases of CHS coinciding with its increased use. Hospitals across the country have already seen more and more cases of CHS in states where weed has been legalized.
Cannabis was illegal in my state, so I was hesitant to tell the doctor I’d been using it. And, because of my unique situation, it would have been easy to blame my symptoms on recent hormone treatments, especially since cannabis provided temporary relief. But if I hadn’t been transparent, I would have continued to be sick. Be honest with your doctor if you use cannabis regularly and begin to exhibit these symptoms. Also be aware that many doctors may not yet be aware of CHS, and you may need to be the one to bring this possibility to their attention. It likely won’t remain under the radar for long, however. As cannabis continues to become more acceptable and accessible across the United States, we’ll need to work toward developing a better understanding of what causes CHS and how to prevent it.
Doctors are seeing an increasing number of cases of cannabinoid hyperemesis syndrome, which has symptoms cannabis is, ironically, often prescribed to treat.
Weed Makes Me Throw Up: The Story Of Alice Moon, Her CHS, And The Hate She Gets For It
Alice Moon surrounded by cannabis products she can’t consume
Ginger Michele – TheSapientLink.com
It’s December 24 th : I tweet about working on this article on Alice Moon and her cannabinoid hyperemesis syndrome (CHS), hoping people will get excited about an upcoming feature on an interesting, little known topic – not unlike the one on Lara Parker and her vagina problems.
Alice instantly messages me asking to take the tweet down. She tells me people will go crazy and start attacking both of us.
I think she’s exaggerating: Who would come after someone for being sick? What is this: the 1800s?
People don’t stigmatize the ill any longer, I naively tell myself.
But it takes just a few minutes for me to learn how wrong I am. Alice was not blowing things out of proportion.
‘I Hate You, Alice Moon’
My original tweet condemned people threatening Alice with physical violence (and verbally abusing her non-stop) just for sharing her experience with CHS.
Courtesy of Alice Moon
I thought the issue was clear-cut: you can’t be mad at someone for sharing their experiences with a certain ailment.
Nonetheless, my one tweet turned into a viral discussion filled with trolls calling Alice a “killer,” talking about how her speaking up was setting the entire cannabis movement back, and about how that, in turn, made her responsible for people dying because of a lack of access to legal, medical cannabis.
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Nobody seemed to care it was Christmas Eve. No holiday spirit was taking over the Twittersphere. No sympathy whatsoever.
“I wish CHS wasn’t real, but unfortunately, it is – and I have it,” Alice said during a recent conversation. She brought up a parallelism to illustrate: “Too much water can be harmful; so it’s time we recognize that for some people, too much cannabis can be harmful.”
I found myself typing furiously – on what was supposed to be a day to relax, trying to channel my indignation, my outrage, into something productive. I was equal parts mad and disturbed.
“I wish CHS wasn’t real, but unfortunately, it is – and I have it.”
I couldn’t even imagine how Alice was feeling. Well, that is, other than not nauseous – Alice has not consumed cannabis in over a year now.
Alice on Viceland
Courtesy of Alice Moon
And here comes the twist: prior to getting diagnosed with CHS, Alice was a notable cannabis edibles reviewer, well known across California.
Be advised: this story is, in no way, trying to argue cannabis is not great for many people — including yours truly, or that it cannot help treat a long list of health issues and ailments. It’s just a story about Alice, and how consuming marijuana in any form, even CBD, makes her vomit furiously, for days. Both Alice and I believe cannabis should be legal and readily available in every last place in the globe.
But in talking so much about Alice, Twitter, and online trolls, I’ve neglected the topic at hand: CHS.
The Mystery Marijuana Malaise
Cannabinoid Hyperemesis Syndrome is a condition that hasn’t been researched much to date. It’s a topic of discussion among doctors and scientists; one that stirs confusion among the cannabis community.
Alice with cannabis
So far, all we know is this potentially deadly condition is believed to be a side effect of frequent and long-term cannabis use, which only a few consumers develop. However, preliminary data also suggests some consumers who have only used cannabis for a year or less have experienced the symptoms as well.
These include nausea, abdominal pain, and excessive vomiting – to name a few. Temporary relief from vomiting can be found (for most patients) in taking hot baths or applying capscacin cream on their stomachs.
According to Alice, doctors can only diagnose CHS by “eliminating all other possible causes of the vomiting.”
She brought up one study that showed that, on average, a CHS patient will accrue more than $70,000 in medical bills before figuring out what is wrong with them.
“I know of over 28 cases where doctors couldn’t figure out what was wrong with a patient – so they removed their gallbladder,” she said. “Isn’t that wild? 28 people, that I know of, have had their gallbladders removed because doctors weren’t educated on CHS and didn’t think it could be a possibility.”
For roughly six years, Alice consumed cannabis without experiencing any negative symptoms or adverse effects. She’d take an average of 10 mg of THC every day. A pretty standard, measured, dose.
“According to one study, a typical CHS patient will accrue more than $70,000 in medical bills before figuring out what is wrong with them.”
“I’d smoke around half a joint a day or less. I never spent all day every day high; I was more of a night-time user,” she explained.
Things started to change in 2016, as Alice commenced to suffer from sporadic vomiting. “Every few months I would throw up and then I would be OK,” she said.
Doctors would often attribute the vomiting to Alice suffering from acid reflux. But a change in her diet delivered no noticeable improvement.
In 2017, her symptoms got worse. Alice’s vomiting became more frequent than ever, and doctors couldn’t figure out what was wrong with her.
In 2018, Alice found herself throwing up almost every day.
“That is when I was diagnosed,” she said. “I was stubborn and wanted to have one last hoorah, so I went to an infused dinner. This triggered my first of 3 ‘episodes.’ I threw up all day every day for 14 days. And nearly died… I’m talking, even a sip of water would be thrown up.”
Alice’s ‘Last Supper’ – March 2018
Courtesy of Alice Moon
After a long recovery process, Alice decided to quit smoking cannabis. After three months, she took her chances again, and tried “pesticide free cannabis.”
But, once again, after a few months, her symptoms came back.
After a four-day episode, Alice decided to try something else: hemp-derived CBD.
“A few months into that I had my worst episode on December 22,” she revealed. “It lasted 16 days: I got 2 ulcers, a hernia, and a bacterial infection from all of the throwing up. I was in the hospital for 4 days.”
This left Alice with no choice but to drop cannabis altogether. Not only would she have to go without a much needed medication, but Alice would also have to re-think her entire lifestyle, built around her involvement in the cannabis community and her work in the cannabis industry.
“I am now so sensitive to second hand smoke that it can make me very nauseous – which has led to me having to change my whole lifestyle, because my social life revolves around attending cannabis events. It has really affected me because I used cannabis for my mental health… anxiety, depression, sleep, and menstrual cramps,” she said.
But this has not stopped Alice from pursuing her passion. Despite the difficulties, she continues to work with numerous companies in the cannabis space, focusing on marketing, branding and PR.
Stay tuned in for more on CHS. And check out Alice’s website www.cannabinoid-hyperemesis.com, a resource for CHS information that includes a list of 20+ research papers on CHS. Alice’s own paper is coming online soon!
For more on Alice’s work, follow her on Instagram @thealicemoon.
Disclosure: this is not a scientific article. It only focuses on the subject’s personal, declared experiences.
Javier Hasse is a cannabis, hemp, CBD and psychedelics-focused reporter, currently serving as Managing Director for Benzinga Cannabis, and CEO of Spanish language news
Javier Hasse is a cannabis, hemp, CBD and psychedelics-focused reporter, currently serving as Managing Director for Benzinga Cannabis, and CEO of Spanish language news site El Planteo, a company he co-founded. His book, “Start Your Own Cannabis Business,” was published by Entrepreneur Media in 2018 and hit the #1 Best-Seller spot on Amazon.
As an award-winning reporter and editor, Javier’s had roughly 5,000 unique articles in multiple languages published across numerous mass media outlets including CNN, Forbes, MSN, Chicago Tribune, CNBC, Yahoo Finance, Entrepreneur Magazine, MarketWatch, Houston Chronicle, The Street, Nasdaq, Morningstar, Playboy, Benzinga, MERRY JANE, High Times, and many others.
Beyond cannabis, Javier is a published photographer and Billboard-charting rapper, featured on hip-hop albums that also included Wu-Tang Clan’s RZA and Inspectah Deck, Twista, Lil Windex, Riff Raff, Cyhi The Prynce, Yung Bleu, DJ Whoo Kid, Jonathan Hay, and others.
Cannabinoid hyperemesis syndrome (CHS), the mysterious illness triggered by marijuana use, and Alice Moon’s experience with it.